Here is the Nov. 4 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday in the Over the Boards blog during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Let's get to it:
Did you expect the Blues to be doing this well with all the injuries? And how dangerous will they be when healthy? -- @matt_winthrop
I say this knowing the Blues lost 3-0 on Tuesday, but I don't think anybody expected the Blues to be doing this well with Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund and, for one game at least, Vladimir Tarasenko all sidelined. However, the injuries have forced the Blues to simplify everything about their game and that works for the style that Ken Hitchcock wants them to play. He wants to coach (sometimes over-coach), but it's hard to coach skill, because either you have it or you don't. With Tarasenko, Shattenkirk, Schwartz, Stastny and Berglund in the lineup, the Blues have plenty of skill. Without them they have to rely on immeasurable intangibles like being gritty and tough in the corners, hard on the forecheck, things like that. The Blues always have done those things well under Hitchcock. Now that they're taking a more simplistic approach, they're not drowning because of these injuries.
I'm still not sure how "dangerous" they are going to be with everyone healthy. On paper the Blues are as good and as deep as any in the NHL. They should have good enough goaltending to back it up from Jake Allen and/or Brian Elliott. But predicting success for the Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a dangerous proposition based on recent history. You'd think with all their multi-faceted talent they'd be able to figure it out, but it hasn't happened yet, so I can't say how "dangerous" they will be when healthy because they will not play as simple as they are playing now.
Do you think it's possible for the Devils to continue winning games? Or will they drop off like everyone expects them to? -- @AlexGrablauskas
I'm not expecting the Devils to be in the playoffs this season. However they are proving to be a tough out, to be better than expected, and I don't think that will change. I like the way coach John Hynes has them playing and believing, that they can be a good team. They are trying to play fast, they're getting contributions throughout their forward group, their power play is good, their young defensemen are improving and they clearly have good enough goaltending. All that said, the Devils are a team with several flaws that in the end will probably bite them.
They don't have a first-line forward; their first line basically is a pretty good second line. And their second line would be a good third line on a playoff team. They don't have a dynamic forward and therefore they can go through long stretches of not scoring. They have found ways to pick up points, which is to their credit, but they're 4-1 in games decided after regulation. There is luck involved in that. Luck turns eventually. I don't expect the Devils to be a playoff team but I also don't expect them to be an easy out at any point this season.
Who is your biggest rookie surprise thus far this season? -- @swandad
By saying I'm surprised by a rookie is admitting I didn't really know much about that rookie. I'm man enough to admit that I didn't know much about Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. I definitely am surprised by the impact he has had.
Defense - STL
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 7
SOG: 31 | +/-: 5
I learned more about Parayko talking with Blues television analyst Darren Pang the other day. He had a great showing this summer at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and was even better in training camp. He has a cannon for a shot and he's a towering presence at 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds. He has the makeup and build to be a powerful defenseman. He also is a mature rookie at 22 years old with three years of NCAA hockey behind him.
Based on all of that, we all should have taken notice of Parayko before this season. His transition to the NHL has been seamless, as has his move up the defensive rotation to the second pair with Shattenkirk out.
Do you think the New York Islanders should bring up Ryan Pulock? -- @DuaAaron
They should consider it if they're willing to give him power-play time. If they're not, or if they have any hesitation about experience, I don't see it right now.
Pulock is a power-play player; 13 of the 17 goals he scored last season for Bridgeport of the American Hockey League came on the power play. Marek Zidlicky is leading Islanders defensemen in power-play ice time but has two points on the man-advantage, so clearly there is room for improvement. That said, the power play is a small percentage of the ice time Pulock would get if called up. Islanders coach Jack Capuano would have to trust him with even-strength shifts. If he did, Pulock would be up now and the Islanders wouldn't have Zidlicky. Capuano didn't seem ready to entrust Pulock with a significant role, and since he wasn't going to do that he wanted him playing more minutes in the AHL rather than sitting in the NHL. If he wasn't ready then, why would he be ready now?
Is it worth a shot? Sure, for the power play. But you've got to look beyond the power play sometimes.
Will the Florida Panthers make the playoffs? -- @StefaniJanvier
If they figure out that they don't have to be an underdog, that they don't have to chase, then yes, I do think the Panthers can be a playoff team. It just seems too often that the Panthers have an identity that allows them to play better when little is expected of them. But when they get into a situation like they're in now, when the opportunity exists for them to do something special, they don't get the job done. I heard Panthers broadcaster and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin talking about the Panthers on Sirius XM NHL Network radio Tuesday and he was saying similar things. He said he asked goaltender Roberto Luongo where he wanted to be in March when it comes to the standings, as in what's realistic, and the answer was, "I don't want to be chasing." The Panthers have some excellent young players and veterans who still can get the job done and lead the way. Goaltending is not a concern, which is huge. But they need to believe they are a good team and play like it. They're too inconsistent as of now.
Matt Duchene has had a crummy start to the season. Any chance he gets his game going? -- @NVaBull
Would you feel differently about Duchene if he wasn't robbed by Ben Bishop on an insane stick save last Thursday? And by Cam Ward on a similarly insane stick save on Oct. 21? That's two would-be goals, including one that could have gotten the Avalanche a 1-0 win against Carolina instead of a 1-0 loss in overtime.
Center - COL
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 29 | +/-: -8
That said, I see your point on Duchene; it hasn't been a good start for him though he got two goals in a 6-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Calgary seems to be the cure-all for a lot of teams this season. That's not a good thing for the Flames. But this is about Duchene and the Avalanche.
He's getting some opportunities, such as the two I detailed above. But I think the alarming stat for me going into the game Tuesday was that he had 23 shots on goal through 11 games. That's 2.09 per game, which was under his career mark coming into the season of 2.55. It doesn't seem like much, but it shows me he either was not getting the puck enough or he's not effective enough when he gets it. However, he had two goals on six shots Tuesday, which has to be considered a step in the right direction. He got some on the power play, but that's the perfect place for a dynamic player like Duchene to develop his confidence.
Duchene is a good player and it's good news for him and the Avalanche that he got on the board and had a big game Tuesday. He'd also probably feel way better if those chances against Bishop and Ward went into the net.